By: Noah Wright
In 2017, the Brewers signed a 1B/OF named Eric Thames. He was one of the Korean Baseball Organization. He formerly played over in the U.S., but never stuck in the bigs. However once coming back over to the U.S., he became one of the Brewers best sluggers. A similar event happened in 2018. After up and down stinst with the Padres and Rangers, Miles Mikolas signed with the Yourmori Giants over in Japan. He pitched very well between 2015-2017. During the 2017-2018 off-season, the Cardinals signed Mikolas. He pitched so well with the Cards this season, he even received some Cy Young votes. They were able to return to the MLB because of standout performance in Asia. With that being said, let’s take a look at 6 other players that also stand out in Japan, and could conceivably come back to the MLB, and make an impact like Thames and Mikolas.
1.) Casey McGehee
Casey McGehee’s second stint across seas has been just as successful as his first stint. After coming back to the U.S. in 2014 and winning the Comeback Player Of the Year award, McGehee struggled for both 2015 and 2016. That’s when he headed back over to Japan. Since McGehee’s return in Asia, he’s batted like an all-star caliber player. In 2017, Casey batted .315/.382/.514 with 18 home runs, and 77 RBI’s. Last season, McGehee had a .285/.336/.467 batting line along with 21 home runs and 84 RBI’s. Throughout his major league career, McGehee was mainly a corner infielder. However in his most recent foreign stint, he’s added 2B into the mix, as he played 61 games there in 2017.
2.) Scott Mathieson
After Scott Mathieson began his career with the Phillies in 2006, and reappearing in a few games in 2010 and 2011, Mathieson decided to take his talents over to Japan. He’s been one of the Yomiuri Giants best and most consistent relief pitchers since 2012. Since going overseas, Mathieson’s highest single season ERA has been 3.58 in 2014. However that has been an outlier since his ERA has not touched 3+ in any other season. His consistently good results could see him return to the United States some day.
3.) Zoilo Almonte
Zoilo Almonte was a Yankees’ prospects, but he never really blossomed into anything significant. After bouncing around between the Dominican Winter League and the Mexican League, Almonte made his way over to the Chunichi Dragons in Japan. This season (his first season over seas) has been impressive to say the least. He batted .321/.375/.486 with 15 home runs and 77 RBI’s in 546 plate appearances. That’s some of the best production he’s had in his career yet. If he keeps it up, an MLB team could look into him as a part of their outfield in the near future.
4.) Onelki Garcia
Onelki Garcia was one of Almonte’s teammates in 2018. The former Cuban Dodgers prospect never really got a good shot in the majors. He played 3 games with the Dodgers in 2013, and 2 games (including a start) with the Royals in 2017. Onelki’s first season across the seas was a solid season overall. He had a 2.99 ERA, but a less impressive 4.00 FIP. However Garcia could turn things around. He’s only 29 years old, and could be the next Miles Mikolas.
5.) Kris Johnson
Johnson last saw mlb action in 2014 with the Minnesota Twins. However after 2014, Johnson went over to Japan, and has performed very well since. Over in Hiroshima, his highest ERA was 4.01. However it seemed he was injured in that season (2017) as he only pitched in 76 and a third innings. Every other season, his ERA hasn’t went above 3.11. Plus he’s only given up 29 long balls in 519 and and two thirds total innings. He’s also shown the ability to limit walks with his highest BB/9 rate in Japan being 3.1.
7.) Dayan Viciedo
Back in 2010, Viciedo was a young Cuban slugger the Chicago White Sox signed. When he eventually made it to the majors and given ample playing time, he was, well, not bad per say, but he definitely wasn’t the bat they were expecting. After bouncing around from the Blue Jays, the White Sox, and then to the A’s in 2015, Dayan decided to take his talents over to Japan. Since 2016, he’s been a recognizable slugger over in the Japan Central League. He showed what he can do given his first full year of playing time, as he batted like a pre-2017 Eric Thames. In 2018, he had a .348/.419/.555 batting line with 26 home runs and 99 RBI’s, in 582 plate appearances. Given another year or two of similar production over in Japan, Viciedo could see himself back over in the US as a team’s 1B slugger.